Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, has recommended inclusive governance and power sharing among the regions as panacea to marginalisation of some sections of the country. He also advocated representative appointment of security chiefs as a strategic step in tackling the general insecurity across the country.
The governor, who made the remarks in Abuja, argued that flagrant marginalisation of some regions or their exclusion from key layers of governance is a contributory factor to the rising spate of agitations across the country. As a way out, he recommended politics of shared values and common grounds where the command of national defence and appointment of service chiefs would not short-change any ethnic nationality.
The governor said: “I advocate inclusive governance and shared power and positions at every level. This is especially so in the command of national defence and the security apparatus where equity and social justice must be the guiding terms of engagement.” He added that in the spirit of diversity and accommodation, there is need for a constitutional process in that regard. Governor Mohammed’s proposal is in line with the thinking of many Nigerians who see equity and fairness as the only way to ensure harmonious existence among the component units of the country.
The Senate had in 2020 introduced a bill that would compel the president to reflect federal character in the appointments of service chiefs. But in the present political dispensation, the South East region has unfortunately been excluded from such appointments. The bill, titled “Armed Forces Service Commission (Est, etc) Bill, 2020,” aimed at ensuring that no part of Nigeria was left out or ignored in the appointment of service chiefs. The bill came amidst criticism of President Muhammadu Buhari’s skewed appointments of service chiefs in favour of a particular region. The President has been accused of appointing most of the service chiefs from the north.
We commend Mohammed for his bold stance on the matter. In a heterogeneous entity such as Nigeria, there is need for representative distribution of key appointments, especially the security chiefs to reflect the diversity of the country. Such critical appointments must not be predominantly domiciled in one section of the country as witnessed since the inception of Buhari administration.
It is good that the Federal Character Provision as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) makes case for equal distribution of key political offices among the six geo-political zones in the country, for reasons of inclusion, representation, sense of belonging and balance in the polity. In the same vein, Section 14(3) of the constitution clearly states: “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies.” In addition, the Constitution further makes provision for the establishment of Federal Character Commission (FCC) with the mandate to ‘‘promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principles of proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media, and political posts at all levels of government.”
Without doubt, adhering to these constitutional prescriptions in appointment of service chiefs and heads of para-military agencies will ensure inclusion, equity and fairness. Besides, it will go a long way to unite the country. More importantly, such appointments should not be left at the whims and caprices of the president. There is need for constitutional stipulations to ensure that such appointments reflect the heterogeneity of the country. Obviously, different sections of the country will get a sense of belonging when they are represented in key government appointments. However, concentrating such critical offices in one part of the country is against the principle of federal character. It is believed in some quarters that such lopsided appointments may be fueling the current clamour for secession and self-determination agitations by some groups in the country.
However, it is worth pointing out that the argument for representative appointment of the service chiefs and other key offices in the country does not mean sacrificing merit. We agree with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo that while Federal character is essentially affirmative to create a balance, it should be based on merit such that if an office is to be reserved for a particular zone, that zone should be able to produce the best candidate. All the same, there is no zone in Nigeria that does not have quality human resource for any public office, including the security chiefs. Against the backdrop of the security challenges in the country, it has become imperative to spread the appointments of security chiefs among the six geo-political zones. Having people from different zones to head the security agencies will enable them have a clearer understanding of the peculiar needs of the country and devise effective and specific strategies to tackle them.